"The State of The World" Number 42
Complete Index Of All Issues
The Ancient History Of Bread Making
The history of bread making is most ancient. It almost certainly began not long after the gathering of wild grain. That would have occurred in the area where mankind itself originated - in the fertile, well-watered regions from the Nile River and delta in Egypt to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers valley in what is today Iraq.
From there, bread-making spread in all directions around the world where it became not only a staple of life, but often a revered part of life as well e.g. long loaves of bread were sometimes referred to as "the staff of life."
The earliest bread would have been little more than a dried porridge-like dish, but this changed when natural yeast in the air united with the flour and water to begin a fermentation process that caused the bread to rise (the fermentation of grape juice was discovered in the same way). Although the ancient peoples didn't understand the science, they made widespread use of it in their bread making from that time on.
The ancient Egyptians were the first-documented to control the process of making bread. Although they didn't understand what yeast was, they kept raw pieces of a previous batch and mixed it in with the next baking. An ancient Egyptian bread oven is shown in the illustration below).
The ancient Greeks and Romans transformed bread making into as much an art as a science. They both also developed many confectionery varieties of bread, often times of a particular brand that became identified with a specific city. During the height of the Roman Empire, there were hundreds of "pastry" (sweetened breads) makers in Rome alone.
The first documented Bakers Guild was formed by the Romans. A Guild was typically an association of bakers, farmers, millers and others (even musicians; the illustration below shows ancient Greek bread-makers working to the sound of musical accompaniment - much like many offices and factories do today) who were directly involved in the bread industry.
Bread remains an important part of the diet of worldwide humanity today. Wheat is still the primary grain from which bread is made, but many other grains (e.g. barley, rye, maize, oats, sorghum, millet, rice) are now, or still (many bread manufacturers produce their version of "ancient grains" bread), used.